Police Federation

Introduction of clearer police powers must aim to reduce pressure on frontline officers

National Chair Steve Hartshorn responds to introduction of clearer definition of ‘serious disruption’ involving slow marching protesters.

14 June 2023


The National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has responded to the introduction of a clearer definition of ‘serious disruption’ involving slow marching protesters, highlighting the importance of reducing pressure on frontline officers.

The change to the law, which comes into effect from tomorrow (15 June), will further clarify existing public order laws to help the police respond to new highly disruptive protest tactics like slow marching.

Police officers can now assess the cumulative impact of protests on the community over a period of time, rather than treating each incident in isolation.

Reacting to the amendment, PFEW National Chair Steve Hartshorn said: “Over recent months our members have been between a rock and a hard place, subject to pressure from politicians, the public and protest groups regarding the way protests are managed. The introduction of clearer police powers must aim to reduce pressure on frontline police officers and improve the service afforded to the public whilst supporting the right to protest.

“Current legislation is not clear enough, which has resulted in our members being forced to standby or risk their careers, in both instances damaging the relationship between the public and the police.

“So far this year, protests have taken up almost 13,770 police shifts, this is unsustainable pressure for our police service given the extreme demands already placed upon our officers.

“With clarity our members can ensure they respect the right to peaceful protest and continue to protect and serve the British public.

“However, officers need time to learn about any legislative changes so the public have confidence their new powers will be used proportionally and properly. PFEW is continuing to push for protected learning time, so officers do not have to undertake required learning outside of working hours.”

The move supports the Public Order Act 2023, which brought in new criminal offences and proper penalties for disruptive protest acts such as locking on.

Repeat offenders can be hit by the courts with a Serious Disruption Prevention Order, seeing them face six months in prison.

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